When: Fri., Oct. 2, 8 p.m. 2015
BLIND BOY PAXTON| FRIDAY, OCT. 2
NIGHTLIGHT, CHAPEL HILL—Blind Boy Paxton demands the suspension of a certain disbelief. If you want to get past the surface novelty of a 20-something singer and picker perfectly re-creating the sound of blues music from the '20s and '30s, you first have to go with it, to let your guard down. Plenty of parallels have been drawn between Paxton and historically sourced acts like the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Despite the Drops' dedicated work as roots detectives, though, they've typically added their own spin to old-school influences. But Paxton doesn't want to sound like the bluesman of the pre-World War II era; he wants to be one of them. Listening to his earthy croon and limber picking on banjo or acoustic guitar, you may believe, at least for an instant, he is a century old, not a century removed from his sources.
Even the title of Paxton's latest album, Recorded Music For Your Entertainment, sounds more like something you'd throw onto a creaky old Victrola than something you'd download. Though the album is credited to Jerron Paxton, the "Blind Boy" epithet is more than the put-on of an obsessive blues geek; Paxton has congenital retinal deterioration and cone dystrophy, according to a Village Voice cover story earlier this year, and is legally blind.
In any case, as he tackles tunes like "Motherless Child Blues" and string-band standards like "Soldier's Joy," Paxton pushes his old-school maneuvers past the point of self-consciousness or shtick. He's not just some dilettante playing dress-up. He's invested in this music, fully committed. So should we take him any less seriously because he was born in the same year as Taylor Swift? Or if we can accept the idea of a modern-day jazz player like Wynton Marsalis stepping onto the stage to reintroduce the sounds of jazz's past, should we extend the same courtesy to tradition-minded practitioners of the blues like Paxton? Maybe, maybe not; either way, the disbelief is worth suspending for at least a set. 8 p.m., $12$14, 405 1/2 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, 919-960-6101, www.nightlightclub.com. —Jim Allen